Leave the Nightlight On, Mom!

By Paula Benton, SFACC Behavior & Training

Teaching a child that she can fall asleep peacefully, alone in her room, is a well-known parenting process. But how do you teach a dog to feel comfortable when left alone?

Many canine welfare industry professionals suspect that as Covid restrictions start to lift and people begin to re-enter the workplace, pet dogs (many of them newly adopted during Covid) may experience separation-related problems. Only time will tell if this will happen. In preparation however, SFACC’s Behavior & Training department offers our top 12 favorite tips for pet owners who currently work from home and may soon need to leave their dog alone, perhaps for the first time in a year.

Separation-related problems for dogs cover a broad spectrum. Some dogs may experience a few minutes of intermittent, frustrated mild barking and then settle down peacefully for a nap. Others may exhibit full-blown medically diagnosed separation anxiety and present more serious panic behaviors, such as self harming, intense pacing, a need to escape to reunite with the owner, home destruction, and digging and chewing beyond natural puppy boredom. Many dogs fall somewhere in between.

Helping your dog feel more comfortable and secure when left alone can be a lot of fun—and not as hard as it sounds! The following simple tips can be used successfully right now in your home. These tips are designed to help prevent separation-related distress or problems. Please note they are not designed to modify existing extreme separation anxiety. If your dog is experiencing serious anxiety and panic, please see your veterinarian immediately and seek the assistance of a certified professional dog trainer.

1. Don’t Delay, Start Today! If you have not left your dog alone in quite some time, today is your day. Please understand that the longer you put off this valuable skill building, the harder it may be for you and your dog to succeed.

2. Have Patience! If you have recently moved or adopted a dog, it is reasonable that he or she will need time to transition to a new routine, home, neighborhood, or family. Mild separation-related problems will likely fade away within a few weeks.

3. Alone Time Is FUN Time! Teaching your dog to associate your departure with something she loves is key. There are many very successful learning tools you can use, such as mouth-watering food puzzles or fun hunt-and-seek games. You can research some of our favorites online, including: Nina Ottosson puzzles, stuffed frozen Kongs, Snuffle Mats, Hide-A-Squirrel plush toys, and interactive tumbler-type treat dispensers. An old stand-by is to sprinkle a generous handful of kibble throughout the room your dog will occupy, right before you leave your home. As she eventually catches on to this simple hide-and-seek game, tuck some kibble pieces in, under, and on top of things in the room to add difficulty. When offered consistently, any and all of these positive associations will have your dog nuzzling you out the door!

4. Ping Pong! Contrary to what you may have heard, take care not to make your departures longer and longer each time. You want to avoid accidently increasing your dog’s frustration or distress with predictably longer sessions. Instead, build in success by ping-ponging the length of time you are gone. For example: Today you might leave for 10 minutes in the afternoon; tomorrow, try 5 minutes in the morning and then 15 minutes in the evening.

5. Sounds Good! Leaving on talk radio or a chatty television channel like HSN or QVC can help mask outdoor sounds your dog may overreact to with excessive barking. White noise machines can also assist in muffling environmental sounds.

6. Eliminate Before You Vacate! Take your dog for a 15- or 30-minute relaxed neighborhood walk before you leave your dog alone. The opportunity to stretch his legs, and wee and pooh will surely add to his comfort. However, take care not to exercise him in high aerobic activities prior to your departure. This can keep his adrenaline higher than you want when he’s alone.

7. This Bed Is Just Right! We all know every dog has her own preferences regarding just about everything. As your dog’s personal “P.I.,” it’s your job to discover her alone-time location preference that provides comfort and security. Be observant. Is your dog most secure in a cozy den-like crate, lying on one of your tee shirts and chewing on a Benebone? Is she most comfortable loose in your living room, secured by baby gates, snoring on the couch? If your dog feels secure alone in your car because she has a 360-degree visual connection to the world, try positioning her near a home window before you leave. Find out what is just right for her.

8. Clear the Decks! In preparation for leaving your dog alone safely in a designated room, put yourself in his paws and scan the environment from his canine point of view. Remove any and all household items that may beckon him to chew, gnaw, or swallow. Taking just a few minutes to do this will avoid hindering his progress and encourage success instead.

9. Say No to No! If you return home to find your dog has had an accident or made a bit of a mess, do not punish your dog. Simply put, he will sense you are intensely unhappy but will not understand why. Punishing him creates confusion and frustration. Instead, while you tidy up, take careful note of the place where you left him. This can be invaluable when you are investigating his alone-time location preference.

10. Be a Good Neighbor! Contact your neighbors and let them know you are working with your dog to help him feel more confident and comfortable when left alone. Make them aware that they might hear some barking or whining, and ask if they will be participants in your training process. Give them your phone number and ask them to contact you directly if they hear excessive barking.

11. Don’t Leave Me This Way! Sometimes leaving our dogs is harder for us than for them. Take this into consideration. Make your departures as normal and easy-going as they would be if you didn’t have a dog. Try to avoid over-fussing, and just ignore your dog 5-10 minutes prior to your departure. The same rings true when re-entering your home. Your goal is to normalize this procedure for you and your dog.

12. I Spy! Ever wonder what your dog does when you are gone? Set up a video camera or mobile phone and record your dog’s behavior after you’ve departed. This will give you an accurate picture of what your dog looks and sounds like when alone, and valuable insight into what’s working for her and what’s not.

Preparing your dog for “life after Covid” by teaching him to rest and sleep confidently when alone is important to his overall health and well-being. Dogs, like young children, need a great deal of rest each day. The average young puppy requires approximately 16-20 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period; the average adult dog requires 12-14 hours. Try each of these 12 simple tips to help your dog have successful, restful time alone. And remember: Start today!

Opening Day at the New SFACC Shelter!

Monday, March 8, 2021
Contact: Mayor’s Office of Communications

SAN FRANCISCO OPENS NEW ANIMAL SHELTER

The seismically safe facility provides enhancements for animals, volunteers, staff and visitors

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the opening of Animal Care & Control’s new state-of-the-art, seismically safe shelter in the Mission District that will serve the thousands of domestic and wildlife critters that come through the doors every year.

With nearly double the square footage of the old facility, the new 65,000-square-foot shelter at 1419 Bryant Street includes a modernized veterinary suite, better ventilation, improved cleaning systems to reduce the spread of disease, and mechanisms that more effectively control noise and odors. The new adoption center’s expanded play and training areas for animals, and larger education spaces, will better serve the public, animal care staff, and volunteers.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve continued to make progress on our critical infrastructure projects, supporting good jobs and making our city more resilient,” said Mayor Breed. “Thanks to our long-term planning and capital investments, and the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the project, we now have a modern, seismically safe, new animal shelter that allows us to ensure the animals in our care are housed in safe, sanitary, and humane conditions. The new facility also offers improved space for education, training and volunteer services.”

The agency takes in close to 10,000 animals of all species a year and operates San Francisco’s only open-admissions shelter, serving dogs, cats, rabbits, raccoons, goats, pigs, pelicans, snakes and squirrels, in addition to many other creatures.

Planning for the facility started a decade ago, and construction began two years ago. Animal Care & Control had been operating out of a former Depression-era warehouse at 1200-15th Street that lacked adequate space for the animals, staff and volunteers, and did not meet current earthquake and other life-safety building codes to serve San Francisco’s 21st-century needs.

Infrastructure projects like the new shelter create jobs and will be a critical part of San Francisco’s recovery from COVID-19. At its peak, the project employed 110 workers in the construction trades, in addition to creating many other jobs across the project’s manufacturers, vendors and material supply chain partners.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to continue our life-saving work in a new, beautiful, and safe facility,” said Virginia Donohue, Executive Director of Animal Care & Control. “We look forward to our innovative and improved home becoming a welcoming place for animals and the community.”

The shelter is the place to go to take a found pet, or to search for a lost pet, and offers an adoption program that includes small and exotic animals in addition to dogs and cats. The agency has a staff of 55 that includes a team of 12 Animal Control Officers who respond to animal-related emergencies and investigate cases of animal cruelty and neglect. Animal Care & Control has a large pool of dedicated volunteers who provide animal enrichment, exercise, and socialization for the animals. Collectively, the volunteer team gives more than 27,000 hours of time annually and are essential to the well-being of the animals.

At this time, the new shelter is limiting public access due to COVID-19 restrictions but is looking forward to welcoming back visitors and volunteers when it is safer to do so. In the meantime, Animal Care & Control staff is continuing to respond to animal-related emergencies, offer virtual adoptions and provide in-person services, such as handling lost and found animals, by appointment only.

“Our family adopted a rescue in the past and even though Birdie is no longer with us, she brought a lot of joy into our lives. The new Animal Care & Control facility will provide a place for healing and care for animals in need before they find new loving homes,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “San Francisco has been a longtime leader in animal welfare, and the services ACC provides will be enhanced through this critical project.”

The Friends of SF Animal Care & Control (SFACC), a nonprofit organization, worked diligently to raise funds to support the project. “The Friends of SF Animal Care & Control is honored to have played a role in supporting the new shelter,” said Lauren Weston, Board Chair of The Friends of SFACC. “It is heartwarming to know our work will matter to so many animals and humans alike.”

The new home for Animal Care & Control involved the adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of the original Market Street Railway Company powerhouse, which was built in 1893 and expanded nine years later. The shelter was constructed within the building’s original footprint and retains the historic brick façade and industrial wood windows, but was repurposed to house a modern, multi-level facility that includes rooftop animal runs and an interior courtyard where animals can enjoy fresh air.

“The imaginative and thoughtful reuse of this historic building has been an exciting project for our team to partner on,” said Acting San Francisco Public Works Director Alaric Degrafinried. “We were able to preserve an important part of the City’s past and deliver a safe, modern and user-friendly facility that will serve the needs of San Francisco for years to come.”

On behalf of San Francisco Animal Care & Control, Public Works designed the new facility and managed construction. Clark Construction served as the general contractor. The building features beautiful and colorful animal-themed artwork chosen by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

“An animal shelter can be a very stressful environment for both pets and humans,” said Ralph Remington, the City’s Director of Cultural Affairs. “The large-scale images in wood and glass by Bay Area artist Favianna Rodriguez welcome those who are considering adoption as well as owners of lost pets. They are colorful and heartwarming, helping to calm a charged situation. The beauty of art is that it can define the mood of a space, and that mood can help shape a positive experience for all parties – furry, feathered or otherwise.”

The $76.4 million project, which is part of the San Francisco 10-Year Capital Plan, was funded primarily with Certificates of Participation proceeds. Certificates of Participation are a source of funding used for the acquisition or improvement of existing or new facilities; they often are backed by physical assets in the City’s capital portfolio and repayments are appropriated each year out of the General Fund.

View the virtual video celebration marking completion of the Animal Care & Control project here: https://youtu.be/NpykBcN6y0A

New Building Art Celebrates All Species

For the past three years, artist Favianna Rodriguez has worked on a public art project with the San Francisco Arts Commission (@sf_arts_commission) for the new SFACC facility. We’re super excited about the gorgeous new art she’s creating for our shelter. She recently shared a few thoughts about the project’s status…

“I love animals and I believe in interspecies friendships, as well as the protection of ALL species. That’s why I’m so excited about this shelter project! Over the past few weeks, my team and I have been making progress with the building, painting the walls with my designs, and preparing for the arrival of the majestic creatures. These babies are looking sooo fly!! The cat looks like she is royalty from outer space. Doggo look like they’re waiting for me to throw the ball. The iguana just makes my heart sing! These cuties were finally wrapped up and prepared for transport. I’m really thrilled to have worked with Magnolia Editions (@magnoliaeditions) to produce these cuties. The folks packing the art are Atthowe Fine Art Services (@atthowefineartservices). What I love is that all these companies are located in West Oakland, near my studio!! The painters who I’m working with are all Bay Area OGs as well! Artists supporting each other, yes!”

Thank you, Favianna, for honoring all species in your designs. SFACC’s mission is to do the same–protecting and caring for all animals in San Francisco. Your art embodies the wonderful spirit that animals bring to our lives.

See more of Favianna’s work on her website.

                    

New SFACC Facility to Open in March 2021

Here at the shelter, 2021 is off to a great start!

The new shelter has received its official temporary occupancy permit and we’re putting the finishing touches on the building. From the freeway you can see our name in lights on the brick façade. We’re eagerly looking forward to the day when we can show you all around our new digs and welcome our volunteers back!

One of the first things you’ll notice is that we’ll have three entrances: a beautiful adoption lobby that will allow families to begin exploring pets they can bring home, a secure lobby for pet surrenders and lost pet searches, and a separate entrance for Bernie’s grooming customers. Being able to spread out a bit should result in a better experience for all of our clients.

Central to the first floor is a large outdoor play space, an ideal location to meet the dog of your dreams. Every dog will have much more space than they have in our current building.  The new veterinary suite is at least twice as big as the current space. We’ll have room for surgical and dental procedures, and separate recovery spaces. Behind the veterinary suite are isolation rooms to keep our contagious animals separate from the rest of the population.


To see more photos of the new building, click HERE.

The second floor is home to all of our other species. From the top of the stairs you’ll be able to see cats, birds, turtles and bunnies all in their separate rooms, ready to greet you.

As I write this, furniture installation has begun. We’re scheduled to move in the first week of March and will keep you updated on our progress. Hope to see you all soon!


Virginia Donohue
Executive Director

B&T’s New Foster Program: CHAMP

One silver lining from the shelter restrictions has been a transition of SFACC volunteers from working with animals in the building to fostering adoptable animals in their homes, which is hugely beneficial for both the animals and shelter staff. To continue reaping the benefits of this shift, the Behavior & Training team at SFACC has developed a custom online program to train volunteers for a new foster program called CHAMP (Caregivers Helping Animals Make Progress).

First, volunteers review an Introductory module, “Caring for Shelter Animals in Your Home,” that covers basic shelter policies and procedures for fostering and will be required of all new CHAMP foster caregivers. Second, volunteers complete a species-specific module on either dog or cat fostering before they become an official CHAMP. The dog and cat modules give an in-depth look at species-specific behavior, SFACC-approved training approaches, and fostering expectations.

The Behavior & Training team has been hard at work developing these modules to prepare new foster families to be successful and kudos to SFACC staff Lauren (LT) Taylor and Ariana Luchsinger. Special thanks to Daniel Quagliozzi of Go Cat Go SF for offering invaluable insight on the behavior of our feline friends and contributing a great deal of the cat-specific knowledge for foster volunteers.

According to Lauren Taylor, Behavior & Training Supervisor, SFACC currently has between 64-70 individuals signed up for emergency/COVID fostering–some have fostered multiple times, some fostered once and fell in love/decided to adopt their foster (‘foster wins’), some are still waiting in the wings for the right match. These individuals have supported us through the most difficult months of COVID and sprang to action when we needed them most.

Right now, 80 individuals have expressed interest in training for the new CHAMP program, and are in the middle of varying levels of onboarding/training. Of those, 27 have completed the Intro. module and either need to retake the quiz before proceeding or have passed the quiz and are awaiting the species-specific modules. New foster applications are coming in almost daily.

You do not need to be a current SFACC volunteer to join CHAMP! You just fill out an application online and wait for us to get back to you about next steps. Response time might be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks depending on shelter staffing.

Fosters working in the CHAMP program will have access to Maddie’s Pet Assistant app, which is available for free and is a great resource for shelters and rescue organizations. The app gives advice on care, reminders on vaccinations, weight-tracking, and other tools to share photos and stories to help animals get adopted.

SFACC’s CHAMP program is a proud recipient of funding from Maddie’s Fund, helping to achieve a no-kill nation. The grant was used to cover foster supplies such as bowls, crates, Kongs, food bins, and enrichment for cats.